Health boards in Scotland have spent at least £130 million on private healthcare and hospitals, a freedom of information request has revealed.
Figures released to Scottish Labour show that 12 of the 14 health boards paid £130,866,841 to private providers in the last three years, which the party says shows the pressure the health service is under.
More than £53 million of the spending was by the health service in Greater Glasgow and Clyde since 2015-16, although figures from NHS Lothian and NHS Highlands were not included.
Taxpayers don't want the health service used as a cash cow for private companies
Spending on private healthcare providers has fallen each year of the three-year period – from £46,915,781 to £41,441,592 – but Scottish Labour argue more should be done to support the NHS.
Shadow health secretary Monica Lennon said: “Health boards are already feeling the pressure because SNP ministers have failed to provide our hospitals with the right number of doctors and nurses – so they have to turn to expensive private providers to hit targets the government sets them.
“The NHS is our most-valued public service – taxpayers don’t want the health service used as a cash cow for private companies, but the only way to cut this private spending is to ensure our health service has the staff it needs, with the time to deliver the care patients deserve.
“Scottish Labour is working with trade unions and health and social care partners on the action needed to end the staffing problems in our NHS for good. We need real change in health and social care and an NHS that is fit for the future.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are absolutely committed to a publicly owned and operated NHS, and for the people of Scotland to continue to have free, timely access to health services.
“Over the last three years Scottish Government spending on health has approached almost £40 billion.
“The use of the independent sector by the NHS to address short-term capacity issues represents around 0.5% of this investment, which compares to 7.3% in NHS England.
“For context, over this same period our NHS has had to pay around £0.75 billion because of PFI and PPP contracts.”